Monday, November 12, 2012

Dazed & Confused

Prior to the US Presidential election last week, columnist and libertarian Deroy Murdoch said,

"It's vital that this be not just a slight GOP win, but a crushing defeat for Obama...We need to discredit and destroy socialism in the US for at least a generation"
Days after the US Presidential election, conservative voters, libertarians, Tea Partiers, and Christian evangelicals are still dazed. Barack Obama was never supposed to win a second term. The result is, for them, sincerely unexpected. The only outcome for which they were prepared included a calmly confident President-Elect Mitt Romney. It's fair to say that the conservative side of American politics was both unprepared for another term with President Obama, and not expecting to have to face it.
Sad faces

It's always hard to be a loser, harder still to do it with an audience. Mitt Romney admitted that he had not written a concession speech. Romney's team went live with a President-Elect website. Republican talking head Karl Rove refused to accept the loss of Ohio and sent Fox News Host Megyn Kelly on a long-legged trek to find the psephologists' bunker. Such was the rock solid belief that Romney would win, it appears that Fox's election night hosts hadn't considered any other result.

Out here in the blogosphere, the sense of shock was less polished but no less vehement. Right wing forum Godlike Productions posted this gem:

Dick Morris was wrong
"I'm not arguing that Romney was a great candidate -- but up against the Worst President In The History Of The United States, The Kenyan Marxist Muslim, The Socialist Redistributor Barack Obama, a tree stump could have won."

Robert Bowen wrote for The Examiner on November 12.
"There are several things to take from this. First, Romney had coat tails—for Democrats. Secondly, the Republican brand is severely damaged by its war on women, its immigrant bashing, and its obstruction in Congress. This damaged down ticket candidates. Lastly, the pick ups in the West show the changing demographic. Hispanic voters shocked Republican know-it-alls and old school pollsters by turning out to vote. Republicans totally underestimated that. They also underestimated the turn out by African-Americans and young people.
If the Republican Party will even survive, it needs to do some soul searching about its policies. Right now, many GOP pundits are saying their policies are fine, they just did not make their case “delicately.” Is there a more delicate way to say “self-deportation” “legitimate rape”, or forced trans-vaginal ultra sounds? I suspect Republicans still do not get it."

I fear the reality is worse than Bowen suspects, and the Republicans simply won't acknowledge it until it’s all too late. Bear in mind that these terms "right" and "left" are literally relative. Both Democrats and Republicans are significantly to the right of centre, and that's part of a bigger problem for Republicans and Tea Partiers.

One of a series of aggressive tweets which Donald Trump later deleted.

Another four years with President Obama will renew the Tea Party's energy; he's someone to rail against, someone to hate, someone to fear. He’s black, with a foreign/Muslim middle name. He’s an easy target. Donald Trump will continue to suggest that President Obama is somehow an illegitimate president. Rush Limbaugh's face will get redder and shinier, Greta Van Susteran will grit her teeth even tighter, and Glen Beck will howl tears of rage.
Still, few Republicans are accepting that conservative voters have also changed. What was conservative twenty years ago is now mainstream, and the ignorance and prejudices that were silently accepted then are now cause for revolt. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly read the electorate well on election night:

“The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming, black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama's way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

“The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”
It's difficult to define a "traditional" America on the basis of voter preferences in a country where voting is not compulsory, but it is safe to say that the groups which were once considered to be minorities and special interest groups won the election for President Obama. Despite recent economic history, and warnings of a financial cliff heading their way, the more economically and/or socially vulnerable groups - single women, the poor, African Americans, Latino, gay - voted overwhelmingly in favour of the party most likely to look after their needs.
The biggest block of voters to support President Obama was women. This is hardly surprising, given that Mitt Romney’s party was better known for it’s serial ignorance on a range of issues, including pregnancy, rape, abortion and climate change. These are not “Womens’ Issues” – they are human issues. (see left)

These are the issues which will ultimately split conservative politics in America.

The core values of the Republican party are being challenged by America’s changing demography. Much of mainstream America is rejecting the extreme brand of conservatism favoured by the Tea Party, so moving to the right to embrace the Tea Party won’t win Republicans more votes; it will probably cost some in the middle. Shuffling to the left is even more dangerous, because it makes it impossible to be an effective opposition – they would agree with too many Democratic policies and end up opposing them just to be seen to be opposing them. If Republicans were willing to move to the left far enough to alienate the Tea Party faithful, they would lose enough of their base to make winning a Presidential almost impossible.

So where to now for the GOP? Deroy Murdoch wanted to see the Democrats made irrelevant for a generation. It looks far more like the Republicans are the ones who are endangered, a victim of their own conservatism.

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